This semi-automatic landed on Mark Heath's desk and he couldn't wait to test it. It looked a potent beast, but how would it perform?
This month’s gun on test is a 12-bore with a pretty impressive name: Breda 3.5in Super Magnum in Kryptek Mandrake camouflage.
Researching the camouflage pattern revealed it’s designed for hunting in dark timber or Georgia pines and excels in dark forest surroundings or the jungle. I’m not sure the average goose, duck or pigeon will have any respect for this camo pattern, so it’s lucky the gun also comes in black.
- There seems to be a plethora of Italian semi-autos on the market. They are great for big magnum loads on the foreshore or marsh, they are easy to load in the pigeon hide, and they can put a smile on your face when there is a trio of clays in the air at the same time.
- This Breda is available in the usual 28in and 30in barrels, as well as 18.5in, 21in, 24in and 26in, and a two-round magazine for the shotgun certificate holder and five- or eight-round magazines are available if you have the appropriate authority on your firearms certificate.
- The tested gun weighed in at 7lb 5oz, a little heavier than the average semi-auto but none the worse for it.
- The length of pull is 14in, with drop measurements that are appropriate for a wide range of shooters.
- The stock has a very comfortable recoil pad and there is also a soft pad fitted into the comb of the gun.
- The radius is comfortable and the stock and fore-end have chequering moulded on to the composite plastic as with most similar models.
- The gun comes with sling swivels, the eyes for which are moulded into the stock and fore-end screw.
- It also comes with a number of shims to allow for adjustment of drop and caste.
- The safety catch is a standard semi-auto push-through button at the back of the trigger-guard and is easy to operate.
- Assembly of the gun is relatively easy if you have put semi-autos together before — courtesy of Shooting Times I am now well practised. Just take your time and don’t force it: the barrel, fore-end and action cover all go on at the same time, which has the added advantage of making it very easy to take apart for cleaning.
- The action, in common with many others, is inertia driven.
- Five chokes are supplied with the gun, ranging from cylinder to full, with cylinder to half-choke being suitable for use with steel shot.
- The rib is a 7mm vented and fitted with a red high-visibility bead.
- The whole gun looks and feels as if it’s been well engineered and assembled.
- The unique selling point for me is the oversize charging handle and release button, something that is quite common across the pond in the US on customised semi-autos, and makes for ease of operation in normal conditions and greatly assists in sub-zero temperatures. The whole package comes in a hard plastic case.
Testing the Breda 3.5in Super Magnum
Now it’s test time. I was under time pressure as it was the last week of August and the diary for lessons had gone into overdrive. At the end of a hot and busy day on both clays and rifle range, I picked up a few 21g cartridges, some 28g competition cartridges that are some of the fastest on the market, and some 36g No5s.
I went down to an area where we have a wide variety of clays and, as expected, the 21g cartridges refused to cycle. However, very surprisingly, the punchy 28g competition cartridges also refused to cycle. The 36g No5s cycled without a hitch and a variety of targets, including some at long range, were duly sorted. The gun had no handling vices but the test was less than satisfactory.
I decided on a second test after a raid on my cartridge supplies produced a different competition brand in 28g, then a variety of 30g and 32g game/pigeon loads, including a box of Eley Grand Prix 30g No6 from the last century, still with the price label on of £2.95. Before discount that would be a 250 rate of under £30 — if only they were that price now.
However the prize find was a box of 1⅞oz, approximately 52g, copper-plated No4s — definitely what the doctor ordered. Who better to lend a hand than Steve Walton, the former Commonwealth Games gold medallist and one of our instructors.
There are a number of competitors in this market including the Winchester SX4, plus various offerings from Beretta and Benelli. It’s a question of personal preference.
Best till last
Fortunately, there was only one failure to recycle on the first shot and then it didn’t miss a beat. Everything went through, including the slightly corroded Grand Prix. We saved the best until last: the 52g No4s. We opted for a rabbit target for safety reasons and shot fall-out, and I have never seen a target so completely destroyed — I was surprised there wasn’t a crater in the ground.
Steve shot a few targets with a variety of loads then the artillery rounds, and couldn’t stop himself laughing as a result. We finished with some simultaneous trios and the semi-auto kept up with pulling of the trigger. Handling was predictable and there were good patterns with half-choke. The recoil on everything was well managed.
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This is a well made semi-automatic that’s easy to operate but potentially a little fussy in the cartridge department. I would expect a semi-auto to routinely cycle 28g and upwards. The camouflage pattern is something of an acquired taste.
- Action / Barrels: The action and barrels appear well made and are easy to assemble and take apart for cleaning 19/20
- Trigger and ejectors: The trigger pulls have no noticeable drag and the pressures are on the money. Potentially a bit fussy on the ejection front when shooting 28g cartridges 17/20
- Stock: Stock dimensions are what I would expect on a gun like this – having adjusted my own semi using the supplied shims, this is a useful option on the Breda. The recoil pad is effective as tested with 52g cartridges 18/20
- Handling: The extra weight provides a little more steadiness in this department, which is welcome. No vices and very comfortable to shoot 19/20
- Value: Prices start at £1,425, which is perhaps a bit costly compared with some of the competition. I suspect the camo might be a little more 17 /20
The unique selling point for me is the oversize charging handle and release button, something that is quite common across the pond in the US on customised semi-autos, and makes for ease of operation in normal conditions and greatly assists in sub-zero temperatures.